Loss to Eels leaves Panthers' season on life support
FROM the hottest pre-season premiership tip around to all but cooked, Penrith must now match the unlikeliest revivals of the last decade to salvage its 2017 season.
Torn apart by Parramatta playmaker Corey Norman in an agonising 18-12 defeat, the Panthers slumped to their fourth loss on the trot and have only wins over lowly Newcastle and Wests Tigers to show for their opening two months.
According to the Fox Sports Lab, in the last 10 years only defending premiers Manly in 2009 and St George Illawarra the previous season have recovered from a 2-6 start to play finals football.
Only seven teams in the entire NRL era have recovered from such underwhelming openings to make the top eight, and none have gone close to winning the premiership.
But based on the 16 handling errors that cruelled a gutsy second-half comeback, the spills won't be matched by the thrills so many expected any time soon.
A double to Norman - the five-eighth Penrith made discreet inquiries about during the depths of Parramatta's salary cap scandal last season - set up an Eels win founded on equal serves of luck and pluck.
Luck in the bouncing balls for both Norman's four-pointers, the second forging an 18-0 lead early in the second half.
Pluck in the stout goal-line defence that weathered a desperate Panthers fightback in a frantic finish, laid bare in the kamikaze shots of centre Kirisome Auva'a.